Ellington Knights Advance to Second Round

ELLINGTON-When it comes to the postseason, the Ellington Knights boys soccer team knows how to get the job done.  Tuesday’s game against the visiting Northwest Regional Highlanders was no exception, as the Knights bested the Highlanders, 2-1 to advance to the second round of the Class M State Tournament.

“They know how to win,” Northwest head coach Andrew Campbell had to say of Ellington, who is a fourteen seed in this year’s tournament.

The Knights, who were seeded eighth and lost to Bacon Academy in the quarterfinals last year, came into Tuesday’s matchup with a record of 10-5-1.

“It’s a special time of year,” Ellington head coach Roy Gurnon said of the tournament.  “A lot of stuff is forgotten, and I think that is real positive.  Guys know it could be their last game.  It’s magical.”

Trouble began for Northwest Regional early, as their team bus was involved in a minor accident before the team could board which caused the 8-4-4 Highlanders to arrive in Ellington 30 minutes late.

The ominous start was a sign of things to come for Northwest.

Ellington junior Robert Bailey scored the Knights first goal with 31:36 left in the first half after teammate James Costanzo’s shot on goal was deflected by Northwest Regional keeper Dan Winkler.

“James took it down in the corner and crossed it in.  I just finished it,” Bailey said of his goal.

Costanzo set up the corner kick with a strong move that crossed up the Northwest defender.

The Knights dominated possession in the first half, but the Highlanders were not without opportunities of their own.

Ellington keeper Bailey Basset made a beautiful save deflecting a hard, straight-on shot by Northwest’s Matthew Thibault over the goal that would have tied the game with 14:00 left in the first half.  The Knights would hold their 1-0 lead going into the half.

Northwest’s play improved in the second half, holding the Knights and putting together better offensive possessions, but in Ellington, the Knights reign supreme.

James Costanzo was active again, this time adding his own goal on a breakaway to give the Knights a 2-0 advantage with 18:44 left in the game.

“Their keepers were really good at shutting us down most of the game,” Costanzo said, adding, “I had a great header from Jack Connelly, one of our defensemen in the middle that set up my goal.”

The Highlanders were able to cut Ellington’s lead in half on a free-kick goal, a 20-yard laser, from senior Carter Thorne-Kaunelis, but it proved to be too little too late for the visitors as Ellington held on to win 2-1.

“We played really well for parts of the game and then there were times we just did not play well,” Campbell said of his team.  “Our season has been the same way.”

The Highlanders, who lost to Windham Tech on penalty kicks in the first round of last year’s tournament, failed to advance again as a nineteen seed.

Ellington, who last won the State title in back-to-back years in 2007 and 2008, will look to extend their season against the winner of Lewis Mills vs. Killingly.

“The group gets tighter and tighter near the end of the season,” coach Gurnon said of his players.

“It’s really for our seniors,” said Costanzo.  “They have put in four years and we really respect that.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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